Staying Secure Online

Maxwell’s Tech Program for Thursday, October 25, 2018

Hovertext: “All I want is a secure system where it’s easy to do anything I want. Is that so much to ask?”
XKCD #2044 (“Sandboxing Cycle”) by Randall Munroe
License: CC BY-NC 2.5

This month’s program will introduce various apps, techniques, and habits that can help keep your online life as safe as it can be on an inherently unsafe internet.

The lack of safety results from the fact that we want machines and applications that can communicate with each other and send each other commands that get executed.

There is, however, an essential tension between this kind of utility and the security we want to maintain. We want apps that can communicate with each other or websites that can deliver active, dynamic content, but we also don’t want viruses on our machines, and this conflict establishes the conditions for an eternal arms race or dialectic in which our thesis of a secure but useful cyberspace is countered by the hackers’ antithesis of a Wild West where we are their vulnerable victims. Security app developers provide the synthesis that begins the dialectical cycle anew.